22nd July 2016 at 00:00

The appointment of a new education secretary seems an opportune time to look at some pressing educational issues.

We need to address the chaotic shambles of the notfunctioning assessment system in schools, from primary to GCSE. I can’t believe that all we have left to support teachers’ attempts at structure and clarity is the repeated use of the word “standards”. The integration of teaching, learning and assessment seems to have been subsumed within a coaching for testocracy. Whether this is because of the race to push teachers into the classrooms or the fear of failure induced by metrics, I cannot be sure.

One fact that I have observed during school visits is an damaging reliance on predictive data. These data have produced a syndrome of early labelling of pupils which, contrary to a formative teaching context of supportively exploring what the pupil knows and can do better, can produce a ceiling on pupils’ opportunity for development.

It is this failure to see the importance of the essential link between teaching and learning, learning and assessment, and assessment and teaching that is profoundly worrying. Yes, we need standards, but those standards should be and will be raised by enabling pupils to be more effective learners. Pedagogically sound teachers still need grounded training in teaching and learning styles, formative teaching methodologies, learner-centred techniques, etc. I fear that there is no structure in place to achieve that ambition within the system as it stands.

Professor Bill Boyle

Tarporley, Cheshire

The OECD’s ‘fundamental error’

On 29 January, the front page of The Times informed readers that “Young people in England are the most illiterate in the developed world”. Any seasoned observer of UK education will suspect that this starkly pessimistic evaluation probably derives from some recently published Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study. Those who report OECD evaluations seem unaware that the model that ranks schools has been shown to be discredited (“Is Pisa fundamentally flawed?”, Feature, 26 July 2013). These shortcomings no doubt played a role in the decision of UK universities to deny OECD tests any role in the appraisal of higher education.

A simple illustration will reveal that OECD school league tables have questionable measurement properties. The location of the balls on a snooker table calls for 44 numbers (two per ball). A single number wouldn’t even suffice to locate a single snooker ball. What could possibly justify the representation of something as complex as the quality of education on offer in the totality of schools in the US as a single number?

It isn’t difficult to identify the error in OECD league tables. The tests claim to measure the ability to apply concepts in new contexts. However, to grasp a concept is to have the capacity to adjust one’s use of that concept so that it accords with established practice. Alas, nowhere in the OECD model can any practice be represented. This is known as the “fundamental attribution error.”

Dr Hugh Morrison


Giving anonymity a bad name

Is anyone else struck by the irony and hypocrisy of a “secret CEO” raging against the use of social media by teachers to share ideas and opinions in a column of a mainstream education publication where they can share their own ideas and opinions completely unchallenged? (“Teachers who waste time tweeting make me sick”, Comment, 15 July.)

Dear TES, please do us all a favour and take this person’s obnoxious ideas and thoughts out of your magazine. I found their comments against Sir Michael Wilshaw verging on libellous and this latest rant sounds more like Donald Trump than an informed educationalist. It’s not funny and it’s not clever.

Personally, I am offended by the Secret CEO’s decision to cling to anonymity and your decision to let them. If the Secret CEO doesn’t have the courage to put their name to their convictions, I don’t think they should be freely shared.

Steve Cleave

Headteacher, Compton CofE primary School, Plymouth

Facebook users on teachers taking support roles in an attempt to lessen workload bit.ly/WorkloadTA

“I went from a full-time teacher to a full-time teaching assistant and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”


“Being a TA can be very demanding also, not always a ‘less demanding’ role! Don’t get me started!’


And to Claire Lotriet on children oversharing online bit.ly/PupilOnline

‘Children are not taught to be safe early on, and so have no concept of the dangers. Why would they if the parents don’t bother to police it?”


“It’s not just kids who overshare online – plenty of adults do, too!”


And to five things teachers pledge to do in the holidays bit.ly/5pledges

“Does any other career have so much impact on personal time that people actually set targets for their time off?”


“Oh dear, I have said all of these…hmm wonder what I will actually achieve.”


From the TES Community forums

What should Justine Greening do for education?


The first and most important thing she should do is look at academisation and reverse the damage it’s done. Oh, and sort the Sats out.


We have a teacher shortage that has deliberately been engineered. Intervene in the market and create supply at regional level.


Start planning sensibly for the extra 750,000 school places that we will need.

magic surf bus

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